8 Creative Ways to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Without Being a Complete Hermit
We’ve all heard this personal finance advice: For the price of your daily latte, you could launch your dream business, pay off credit card debt, become a savvy investor or build your savings to astronomical levels.
Sure, we could all be billionaires if not for our caffeine habit. We’ll get right on that.
In the meantime, you sit with stacks of credit card debt, dwindling savings and paychecks that hardly pay the bills.
Lattes aren’t your problem.
You need to get creative with your budget, especially if you’re ever going to wring out enough to pay off debt and work toward your new life as a billionaire.
Here are the eight best ways to pay off your credit card debt.
1. Figure Out Exactly What You Owe
Need a longer look at that debt? Credit Sesame can help you figure it out.
Credit Sesame’s “credit report card” acts like your favorite teacher from high school.
It gives you a free credit score, plus lays out your credit history, so you can see exactly how much money you owe and to whom. It even tells you your monthly payments and interest rate, as well as which debts are in collections.
The app lets you keep track of your credit score and recommends ways to improve it.
For example, it might recommend a mortgage lender, credit card or debt refinancing based on your needs and chances of being approved.
Small business owner Kenneth Bain raised his credit score 234 points using Credit Sesame. He said it became like a game, and he wanted to achieve the high score.
“I literally checked my credit every day, two to three times a day,” he told us. “I remember the day I logged on and saw 721 … And (I thought), ‘Yes, finally! My hard work paid off.’”
2. Negotiate Your Bills Down
We all know you can negotiate the price of a car, but did you know you can negotiate your utility bills?
Here are some negotiating tips our contributor Sarah Mueller used to save her family about $5,000 in a year.
If you’re not seeing the results you want when you call utility companies, a free iOS app called Clarity Money will actually negotiate your bills down for you.
The company starts by scanning your bank statements for places you might be overspending or overpaying. Then it does the hard work for you.
Clarity reps contact companies on your behalf. If they’re able to negotiate a discount, the company keeps 33% of your savings. If they save you nothing, you owe nothing.
3. Consolidate Debt
A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in that boat, consolidation and refinancing might be worth a look.
A good resource is online lending platform Upstart, which can help you find a loan without relying on only your conventional credit score.
Unlike traditional underwriting models that use only the common FICO scoring model, Upstart’s technology looks at factors like your education and employment history to determine your creditworthiness.
It can help you borrow up to $50,000, potentially with better terms (e.g. lower interest or lower monthly payments) than traditional lenders. If managing many different bills and credit lines is a hassle, you can also use an Upstart loan to streamline all of your loans into one.
4. Earn Extra Income — Without Extra Time
One of the best ways to pay off credit card debt is to earn more money. Easier said than done, right?
Few people have the luxury of adding another job to their daily schedule, so where does the extra come from? We recommend looking for ways to boost your income passively that won’t add hours to your workday.
Here are a few of our favorite ways:
- Watch videos via Swagbucks. Get paid to flip through video ads during your commute (as long as you’re not driving), while you wait in line at the grocery store or during your lunch break.
- Share your opinion via paid online surveys. Ipsos Panel and Opinion Outpost are two of the largest legitimate paid survey sites out there. These can be a smart way to turn your TV-watching time into a money-maker.
- An app called Earny helps gets you money back for your online purchases at stores like Target, Walmart, Old Navy and more — but you have to keep your email receipts. Just connect your bank account and Earny does the rest for you.
5. Spend Less by Earning Rebates
Now that we know you’ve cut your spending down to the last latte, how can we possibly talk about spending even less?
There’s one more step you can take to cut your everyday expenses — earn cash back for them.
Use these sites to earn rebates on everything you buy:
- For groceries, sign up for Ibotta. You can browse cash-back offers in your area and scan your receipts to get rebates. Once you’ve reached $5 earnings or more, you can request payment via Paypal or Venmo. And right now, Ibotta is giving new users a $10 sign-up bonus, just for redeeming your first receipt.
- For household necessities, sign up for Ebates. You’ll earn a $10 Target gift card when you join and make your first purchase. Plus, you could earn 5% cash back on some Amazon categories.
Feed all these savings toward paying off credit card debt to chip away at it faster.
6. Sell Your Extra Stuff
If you haven’t moved or cleaned out your closets recently, you probably have some stuff sitting around you don’t need.
Selling it off could give you an influx of cash to make progress on your debt.
Here are some of our favorite websites to sell anything in your house:
- letgo: You can sell almost anything on this app.
- Bookscouter: Use this site to sell your old books.
- Decluttr: This site will pay you for your old CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays, video games, gaming consoles and other electronics. (Plus, enter PENNY10 at checkout to get an extra 10% for your trade-ins!)
7. Automate Your Savings
Once you pay off credit card debt, the last thing you want to do is rack it up again. An emergency savings fund can help protect you from that possibility.
“Build an emergency fund” is another of those common pieces of personal finance advice you’ve probably heard and hate. (Even we recommend it.)
Savings seems impossible when you think about it. So start saving without thinking about it.
One sneaky trick to get yourself to save is an app like Stash.
Once you connect a credit or debit card, you can automatically deposit as little as $5 into an investment account. (You’ll get a bonus $5 for signing up for Stash through this link.)
Your brain won’t even know you’re saving — I can’t think of a better trick than that!
8. Find Free Entertainment
Let’s face it: Having fun can cost a lot of money. You could easily drop thousands on entertainment each year if you had the cash to spare.
When you don’t have the cash, you can still have fun.
Even better, you might be able to get paid to enjoy movies, bowling, amusement parks, water parks, weekend getaways and more.
You can do it through mystery shopping. Here’s a list of our favorite companies to get you started.